Since she was tiny, we have done our best to correct Riley when she says something inappropriate. We know her heart, and know she doesn’t mean it, but sometimes she just comes across as bratty or rude, and well…she needs to know.
For many years, we’ve had do-overs.
Random example. She’d come to the dinner table, take a look at the food, scream, and run away. I’d bring her back to the table for a do-over, demonstrating the appropriate action.
“Here’s what you could say instead: Mommy, I really don’t like green beans, is it okay if I only eat one bite?”
Or she’d snap at one of us, meeting any question, (even those she would definitely want to answer “yes” to) with a “NO!” The mere act of having to answer a question was too much to process.
“Riley, let’s think about how someone might feel, when you scream “no” at them like that? I want you to do it over and say more gently: No thank you.”
I can’t even begin to tell you how many do-overs we’ve facilitated in her young life. The trick is, to take the emotional charge out of it. It’s like teaching a person a new language. If I were teaching someone English as a second language, I wouldn’t be mad at them for making mistakes, I’d just correct them. Social skills are a language too.
Yesterday was a long day. Lots of errands. The kids were in a loopy zone, not really paying attention to me. Goofing around, not being helpful, egging each other on. It made it extremely difficult for me to focus on getting what we needed at the grocery store.
Once home, the grocery bags were too heavy for them to carry, but they could have opened the door for me. They could have moved their little behinds up the steps at a quicker pace as I stood there arms loaded behind them. They could have stopped screwing around in the doorway.
I could feel one of the bags starting to rip as I stood there waiting for them,
“Riley and Seth! Do you see my arms are full? Do you understand these groceries are heavy? Will you stop acting so clueless and hustle up those stairs please!”
Later, when I was calmer, I said, “I”m sorry. I know you are good kids. It’s frustrating when I feel like I’m doing all the work, and you aren’t helping. I need you to notice when I am struggling, and open the door for me, and at the very least move out of the way when I’m trying to get up the steps with bags of groceries.”
Riley said, “It’s okay Mom.”
And then, in her sweet voice, with no emotional charge or judgement she said,
“And Mom. Would you mind not calling us “clueless?” It didn’t really hurt my feelings too much, but it kind of made me feel like you don’t think we’re smart.”
I apologized, and though I feel bad for calling them “clueless,” her repsonse felt like such a victory, I can barely even beat myself up.